Confident Geoghegan-Quinn stresses fighting qualities

European research, innovation and science commissioner-designate Máire Geoghegan-Quinn addresses MEPs in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: Thierry Roge/Roge Rumiana Jeleva: support for her hanging in the balance

European research, innovation and science commissioner-designate Máire Geoghegan-Quinn addresses MEPs in Brussels yesterday. Photograph: Thierry Roge/Roge Rumiana Jeleva: support for her hanging in the balance

 

MÁIRE GEOGHEGAN-QUINN was unshakeable in her self-confidence yesterday as she presented an ambitious work programme to MEPs for her term as incoming EU innovation and research commissioner, a portfolio that commands a multi-year budget of more than €50 billion.

As the prospects of Bulgarian foreign minister Rumiana Jeleva receiving parliamentary support for her nomination hung in the balance after a weak performance on Tuesday, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was forthright as she sailed through her three-hour confirmation hearing before the industry committee last evening.

“I’m talking about research to retail,” she said, adding that her top priority was to harness research and innovation to create employment and help the union consolidate its economic recovery.

Her presentation immediately drew a favourable response from the committee chairman, Herbert Reul, a German Christian Democrat MEP with the European People’s Party (EPP), the dominant political group in the parliament.

“I think she’s a very bright woman and very well informed. She’s very political and I think she knows what she wants,” Mr Reul said. “She will fight for her ideas, I’m sure. In this time we need very much support for ideas and research. She’s a good candidate.”

Ahead of the detailed political negotiation of a new medium-term economic strategy that European leaders hope to adopt this spring, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said her work as commissioner would be central to the EU2020 plan.

“It’s about developing a think-do economy,” she said, adding that she wished to make science sexy for young people contemplating their careers.

“I won’t be a mouse, I won’t be quiet. I will be robust but I will be collegial,” she told MEPs.

“I’m a doer, I’m not a yes woman. You’re not dealing with a civil servant. This is a politician who is in charge of doing things, who wants results and who wants delivery.”

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn promised to be robust and independent in her work, to fight to increase EU funding for research in the union’s next budget round and to examine the deployment of European structural funds for work in the research and innovation area.

She repeatedly affirmed her commitment to continue the Union’s funding of nuclear research and said she wanted to simplify the administration of research schemes in general. She also pledged to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to tap EU research funding and said she would promote efforts to finalise the parameters of a union-wide patent regime.

A newcomer to research and innovation issues, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said after the hearing that she didn’t have much sleep over the Christmas period as she prepared for her hearing.

In the research arena, she singled out climate change, energy and new medical approaches to “healthy ageing” as her priority projects.

Parliament was consumed with speculation yesterday over the prospects of Ms Jeleva, an EPP vice-president, after her financial disclosures were questioned by liberal and Green MEPs.

Amid claims that she has been less than frank about her interest in a consulting company, the commission is expected to examine anew her official declaration of interests.

The EPP retaliated yesterday, claiming there had been an orchestrated witch-hunt against Ms Jeleva and said alleged shortcomings in her disclosures were only minor matters.

The party attacked incoming administration commissioner Maros Sefcovic over his claim in 2005 that his Roma compatriots were “exploiters of the Slovak welfare system”.